U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Vietnam's National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan during a visit at the gardens of the presidential palace in Hanoi, Vietnam May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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U.S. President Barack Obama began his first visit to Vietnam Monday, part of his strategic "rebalance" towards Asia that could bring more overtures to a former enemy to boost its defense capability as a time of rising South China Sea tension.Obama met President Tran Dai Quang as his visit began and he will also meet the two others in Vietnam's triumvirate of leaders, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong Monday.Obama's visit follows what the Pentagon called an "unsafe" intercept last week by Chinese fighter jets of a U.S. military reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea.Obama, the third U.S. president to visit Vietnam since ties were restored in 1995, has made closer diplomatic and military cooperation with countries across the Asia-Pacific a centerpiece of his foreign policy.There has been much excitement about Obama's visit in a country with a young population firmly behind closer U.S. ties and resentful of their economic dependence on China. China is Vietnam's biggest trade partner and source of imports, but trade with the United States is growing fast.
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